It’s said that we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone… that we have a tendency to take for granted that which is valuable in our lives and then, when for whatever reason it is no longer a part of our experience, we gain a sudden and deep appreciation for its meaning and worth.
But in another way, sometimes the value of what you have becomes apparent only when it’s been given to you.
For me, that something is TIME.
I’ve worked full-time for the vast majority of my adult life, with very little break apart from statutory holidays and my annual two or three weeks’ worth of vacation time. I suppose that’s not particularly unusual, really, nor in my case all that stressful, as I’ve been very fortunate to have had a couple of long-term jobs which, while by no means perfect, involved doing things I enjoyed and working with people I liked.
Several years ago, in the midst of a perfect storm of financial ability and a healthy real estate market, my husband and I sold our tiny downtown condo and moved to a larger townhouse in a bedroom community outside the city. Making the choice to trade convenience for home size meant that instead of a nice 15- or 20-minute walk to work, I now ended up with a 45- to 60-minute (or longer, depending on traffic) bus commute to and from the office. That may not seem like a big deal for large-city dwellers who face daily commutes of several hours, but it was an adjustment for me! My life as I knew it shifted: I needed to get up (and go to bed) earlier, plan better, be less spontaneous.
In the beginning I really didn’t mind making the adjustment; in fact, I relished the change to what had become a fairly predictable (albeit pleasant) day-to-day routine. But after a few years that change drifted into its own rather mind-numbing pattern: ride the bus to work, spend the day at the office, ride the bus home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed… then wake up and do it all again. It was a repetitive and tiring five-day cycle that left me with little drive or inclination to do much else. Weekends became more about catching up on sleep and decompressing from the previous week of “go, go, go” than a time for fun and enjoyment, and, without fail, Monday arrived once again, all too soon.
Time wasn’t the only reason we made the decision to uproot our lives and move across the country – but it was certainly a major contributing factor. Moving to a city with a far lower cost of living meant that I could afford to reduce my work hours and therefore have more time to myself. Creative thinking and a supportive employer enabled me to pare down my responsibilities but still continue working at my current job, teleworking part-time from my home and thereby eliminating my daily commute.
And now I have TIME.
I have time – and with it, energy – to pursue friendships, to explore, to get involved.
I have time – and with it, enthusiasm – to take better care of myself, to try new things, to take risks.
I have time – and with it, freedom – to read, to write, to learn, to reflect.
I have time – and with it, awareness – to love, to be grateful, to appreciate.
I wonder how I ever managed without it.
I understand (with a touch of envy) that others may be well able – far more so than I – to juggle the demands of a full-time life of work, commuting, family, commitments, and deadlines without losing touch with who they are, without compromising the richness and quality of their life.
I also recognize that for those who may relate to what I’m saying because they are experiencing it in their own lives, the choice to make such a dramatic overhaul of their world in order to take back time for themselves is simply not an option. I get that.
But I encourage you, in whatever way you are able, to regularly and with discipline find and carve off for yourself even a small fragment of that precious gift, separate and apart from the day-to-day grind and routine of life. Because I have discovered (and continue to experience with great delight) that every moment of living sparked by energy, enthusiasm, freedom, and awareness, gives meaning and value to this oh-so-short experience we call life, and only wish I’d understood that sooner.
How can you find ways to claim more time for yourself?
(Originally posted in April, 2012.)